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René Lévesque decries 'WASP arrogance!'

In the 1960s, René Lévesque made the prospect of a separate Quebec a reality. A shrewd politician, he gathered enough support to start the first sovereignty party Canadians took seriously. The Parti Québécois thrived because of his hard work, charm and democratic approach. In an era when some preferred to use firebombs to get their point across, Lévesque wanted Quebecers to vote on separation. Although the Quebec premier lost his 13-year fight after the 1980 referendum, he is remembered for winning countless other victories for francophones.

(Technical note: Poor video)

In an impassioned and angry statement before an audience, René Lévesque screams: "WASP arrogance!" The leader of the Parti Québécois is reacting to what he calls a "racist" Montreal Star editorial. Lévesque finds the paper's comments about francophones unacceptable. For him, the article is just another example of anglophone oppression preventing Quebec from self-determination.

In this CBC Television clip, commentator Doug Collins comments on the controversy. His opinion reiterates the misunderstanding between Canada's French and English speakers.

"I read the same editorial and thought it was harmless," Collins explains. 
. The Montreal Star editorial published the day before this television clip said "the drive for constitutional change" is no longer "about Quebec." The threat of Quebec separating was no longer as important as "the major tasks of urban development, mass transport, housing, pollution control."
. WASP is a derogatory acronym used to describe white people, usually those from upper class North American families. It stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

. The PQ claimed its members were the only of any Quebec political party not controlled by big business. In 1969 a poll found: 35 per cent of members were teachers and professionals; 17 per cent were students; 12 per cent worked for the government; 10 per cent worked as managers; 10 per cent were blue collar workers; and farmers made up 1 per cent.
. Half of all members were from Montreal.

. The PQ admitted to internal strife in 1969 and said members got "bogged down in verbosity, infighting between clans and dogmatism."Levesque
Medium: Television
Program: Summer Weekend
Broadcast Date: June 7, 1970
Guest(s):
Host: Doug Collins
Speaker: René Lévesque
Duration: 1:04

Last updated: April 10, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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